Sunday, February 12, 2012

Secret to Making Simple Brownies Look Super Fancy

I'm thinking my "secret to..." posts that I introduced here may not always come on Sundays in the future, but I promise I'll keep them coming regularly.

This week's secret is how to make brownies look super fancy and impressive. Usually brownies cut up in squares and plunked down on a plate are enough to make people excited, but with a few tricks you can make them look like a gourmet dessert! I also have an easy go-to brownie recipe for you!

Brownie and espresso cheescake layers

Four Secrets to Making Simple Brownies Look Super Fancy
  1. Bake them in a circle pan
    A lot of recipes call for baking in a square 8 x 8 inch brownie pan. Instead bake them in an 8 inch round cake pan, then when serving you can cut them in wedges and they're instantly fancier.
  2. Decorate with chocolate curls
    Once your brownies have cooled all the way, use a vegetable peeler to shave down the sides of a slightly softened chocolate bar. There is a video tutorial here. I used this method on my espresso cheesecake brownies.
    Espresso cheesecake brownies
    As you can see, I didn't wind up with full curls, more like shavings but I think they're so purty!
  3. Decorate with sifted powdered sugar or cocoa powderAgain, wait until your brownies have cooled. Then cut even strips of parchment or wax paper about 3/4 inch wide and lay them spaced evenly on top of your brownies. Use a fine mesh colander to sift powdered sugar or cocoa powder over the brownies. Then carefully lift off the paper, leaving nice clean stripes. Here's a picture tutorial using shapes.
  4. Decorate with frosting and edge with candy or nuts
    So easy. Frost your brownies (or use Nutella like this great idea), then place candy or nuts around the edges for a fancy border.
Here is a really great recipe for cocoa brownies using ingredients that you probably have on hand in your kitchen already. I turned them into caramel swirl brownies, but if you don't want or have the optional ingredients, just leave them out and make a great tasting cocoa brownie!

Cocoa Caramel Swirl Brownies
Adapted from Wild About Brownies

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup caramel liqueur (I used Baileys) (optional)
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
About 2 tablespoons caramel sauce (optional)
  1.  Preheat oven to 350. Grease the bottom and sides of an 8 inch square baking pan, or round cake pan. Line bottom with parchment paper, letting paper slightly hang over two edges (good for lifting brownies out to cut).
  2. In a small bowl combine flour, baking powder and salt.
  3. In another bowl mix together the sugar, eggs, oil and caramel liqueur with an electric mixer.
  4. Stir in the cocoa and extracts.
  5. Stir in the flour mixture until just combined.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly. 
  7. If swirling in caramel for caramel swirl brownies, distribute the two tablespoons of caramel sauce over top of the brownies and use a knife to draw in all sorts of fun swirls.
  8. Bake for 30 - 35 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the brownie portion comes out almost clean.
  9. Cool in the pan on a wire rack then remove using parchment paper. If your brownies have caramel swirled in, it is easiest to place on a large cutting board and use the knife to cut straight down to cut the brownies into squares.
  10. Store in an airtight container at room temp.
Superbowl brownies


  1. Neat ideas. I might try some of them today for a party. One question, how many servings does your recipe have?

  2. Thank you! Hope you do get to try them! The caramel swirl brownie recipe is meant for an 8 x 8 pan, so depending how you cut it will serve 9, or more if you cut smaller brownies! If you use a circle pan it will get you 8-ish if you cut it in wedges. Or more! Depending on how skinny you make your slices! Happy baking!